Lewis Griswold

December 21, 2013

Griswold: Hanford man reunites with daughter on TV talk show

A homeless Hanford man was reunited with his long-lost daughter on a nationally syndicated television show, and the heart-warming tale will be shown Christmas Day on a Valley TV station.

A homeless Hanford man was reunited with his long-lost daughter on a nationally syndicated television show, and the heart-warming tale will be shown Christmas Day on a Valley TV station.

Two years ago, Kathi Gulley of Riverdale and her husband Wayne Musgrave went shopping at the Hanford Walmart, where they saw a homeless man and his dog in the pouring rain.

Musgrave bought him some McDonald's hamburgers, but Gulley kept her distance: "I was afraid to talk to him because I knew nothing about homeless people," she said.

On future trips, they learned that Mike Hatfield was a down-on-his-luck long-haul truck driver whose only friend was his dog, Hooter, a dachshund-terrier mix.

"He told me his only wish in life is to find his only child," Gulley said. He'd last seen her in Florida when she was 6 months old, before he and the girl's mother parted ways.

Gulley did some Internet sleuthing and quickly found several family members.

A relative informed her that the girl had been put up for adoption, had a new name -- Janna Jones Preston -- and as an adult was looking for her father.

Gulley talked to Janna on the phone, drove to Hatfield's homeless camp in Hanford and handed him her cell phone. It was Janna. They talked, but neither could afford to travel to see each other face to face.

Gulley sent a letter to "The Trisha Goddard Show," a TV talk show that specializes in family issues. A few weeks ago, the show contacted Gulley and flew her, Musgrave and Hatfield to Stamford, Conn. for the Dec. 10 taping of Hatfield and Preston finally reuniting.

But there was a hiccup: Hatfield was crushed when he was told that Janna couldn't be there, although the show would do a live video feed from Florida. But in fact, she was in the studio and suddenly walked onto the stage to greet the father she never knew.

"I lost it," Hatfield said. "I couldn't believe it."

A man who had been homeless for nine years "became a human being right before our eyes," Gulley said.

And now Hatfield, 60, isn't homeless.

He'd served in the Marines in the early 1970s, so Paul Sanchez of Hanford -- a stranger who stopped to talk with Hatfield outside Walmart -- helped him connect with the Veterans Administration. Now Hatfield gets a monthly VA check that covers rent and groceries, and Hatfield rents a room in Sanchez's home.

The show airs at 1 p.m. Christmas Day on KAIL Channel 53. Here's a preview.

RUIZ 4 KIDS: The Ruiz 4 Kids Fiesta raised $352,189, a 30% increase from last year, said Kim Ruiz Beck, chairman of Ruiz Foods, Inc. and president of Ruiz 4 Kids.

At a luncheon, four charities received funds: Blind Babies Foundation, $75,654; Wish Upon A Star, $77,224; CASA of Tulare County, $95,954; Miracle League of Visalia, $103,354.

The mission of Ruiz 4 Kinds, started in 1990 at the urging of employees, is to raise money for organizations that help children.

ANITA FUND: Family HealthCare Network, which has clinics in Tulare and Kings counties, handed out 126 holiday gift baskets to patients nominated by the staff.

Baskets included a $75 gift card, blanket, gifts for children, a fresh chicken, berries and nonperishables.

Employees donate from their paychecks to fund the annual Anita Fund program.

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About Lewis Griswold

Lew Griswold

@fb_lewgriswold

A 29-year resident of Visalia, Lewis Griswold is thoroughly in touch with his community. His South Valley columns shed light on the quirky and quaint, the light-hearted and the heart-rending. Contact him with your ideas. Phone: (559) 441-6104. Twitter: @fb_lewgriswold. Email: lgriswold@fresnobee.com

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